NCAA Tournament Update
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT WEEKEND UPDATE
Go ahead and raise your hand if your brackets have a UMBC versus Marshall showdown in the NCAA Tournament National Championship Game ... no kidding?
Okay, so the first two days/nights of this wild and wacky NCAA Tourney has belonged to the proverbial giant-killers of the hoop world with six double-digit seeds alive-and-kickin' upon entering this weekend's Round of 32 (or almost 20 percent of the remaining field, if you wish to look at it another way):
They include - of course -- #16 UMBC, #13 Buffalo, #13 Marshall, #11 Loyola-Chicago, #11 Syracuse and #10 Butler - and truth be told that through the last game on Friday night the NCAA Tournament Betting Favorites still were 18-16-1 ATS (against the spread) with one Pick 'Em game (see Nevada over Texas in OT) tossed into the mix and that may be a major head-scratcher when you consider all those outright upsets we saw on Thursday/Friday, right?
No doubt UMBC's stunningly-easy 74-54 win against three-TD fav Virginia was - by far - the biggest scene-stealer we've witnessed in a tourney game in eons - but now the $64,000 question is can the Retrievers (25-10) double-up their pleasure with a second-round win against Kansas State come Sunday? Now, that might then qualify as the greatest encore since The Beatles hit the Ed Sullivan Show for a second time (google that one, kiddies!).
The UMBC kids shot 26-of-48 against that Wahoo defense generally regarded as the best in the land as G Jairus Lyles banged home 28 points against his parents' alma mater while how about a shout-out to UMBC's fiery point guard K.J. Maura who committed just two turnovers in 40 minutes of action ... hip/hip/hooray!
Here's what the other double-digit seeded teams face as they attempt to survive-and-advance into next week's Sweet 16 ...
#13 BUFFALO (27-8) ... The Bulls buck heads with Kentucky on Saturday knowing that savvy senior Wes Clark will be an important player here against the Wildcats' freshman-laden lineup. If Buffalo is gonna have a shot to steal this one as 6-point pups, then getting in the face of UK three-point specialist Kevin Knox is a must.
#13 MARSHALL (25-10) - Everyone in the great state of West Virginia is gearing up for this Sunday night showdown against the WVU Mountaineers but we want to know if the Thundering Herd's always-on-the-attack offense (ranked ninth nationally in scoring) will get another monster game from scorer Jon Elmore (27 points against Wichita State in Friday's shocker win).
#11 LOYOLA-CHICAGO (29-5) - Now that Sister Jean has become the biggest star in Chitown since Oprah, we'll see if some divine intervention can help the Ramblers get past 6-point favorite Tennessee this weekend. Remember that Loyola has supreme balance (four players scored double figures in the buzzer-beating Round of 64 win against Miami) including star Donte Ingram.
#11 SYRACUSE (22-13) - Hats off to this year's "First Four" squad that's notched a couple of tourney and gotta believe that if Jim Boeheim's crew plays that long/lean zone to perfection against Michigan State on Sunday, there's a real shot at upset city again. Paging frosh Marek Dolezaj (see 17 points against TCU on Friday night) as Sparty may have to design some defenses to stop this overnight success.
#10 BUTLER (21-13) - It was freaky how these Bulldogs started off their first-round win against Arkansas with a 21-2 lead but LaVell Jordan's club has been prone to both positive and negative scoring streaks this year with Kelan Martin (27 points versus the Razorbacks) often in the starring role. Now Butler goes up against a Purdue team without 7-foot-2 C Isaac Haas and so that means more drives to the hoop for the Big East crew.